Published August 4th, 2011

Anna Kessler has spent three decades working in the fine art of calligraphy, imbuing paper with meticulous strokes of pen and ink-based in centuries of tradition. She tells us about what sparked her passion for the art of handwriting and how she shares it with couples spreading the word about their big day.

Please tell us about your services.
ANNA KESSLER: I am a freelance calligrapher working out of my home. I specialize in the hand- addressing of special event invitation envelopes and accompaniments, such as escort and place cards, table numbers, written poems, inscribed books, custom wedding vows, and custom marriage certificates.

I work with dip pens and inks using a broad-edged nib for italic styles and a pointed pen nib for script styles. At this time, I am not proficient in the Hebrew alphabet, therefore am unable to provide ketubah.

How long have you been doing calligraphy?
ANNA KESSLER: Professionally, for 30 years or so. I grew up in England, where we were required to write with a fountain pen and ink, and in my elementary school, we had to write in cursive italic, which needed a special broad nib. That cursive italic became the basis of my own handwriting today.

How did you get into that line of work?
ANNA KESSLER: In the early ‘80s I was living in California and joined a calligraphy group known as the San Diego Fellow Calligraphers. We were a tremendously enthusiastic bunch and over the years offered a workshop schedule that included many of the internationally known and respected calligraphers of the day, including Julian Waters, David Howells, Nancy Ouichida, Alan Blackman and David Meckelberg, to name just a few. Members of our group were often approached to provide calligraphy for paying clients, which is how I really got started. I went on to take an extension course in Commercial Design at UCal San Diego and then did freelance work designing awards, certificates, brochures, etc.

What do you think calligraphy adds to a wedding invitation?
ANNA KESSLER: Style, distinction and individual expression.

Is calligraphy best for formal weddings?
ANNA KESSLER: Calligraphy is appropriate for all weddings, not just formal affairs. The styles can be adapted to reflect the tone and theme of the event.

Describe the process couples go through when they work with you.
ANNA KESSLER: Contact: On initial contact, I prefer to meet with clients personally, but we sometimes have to “meet” by phone and/or email if long-distance. We discuss the type of event and the mood or theme; the colors and styles of the invitation and the style of calligraphy they would like. In order to provide a baseline estimate, I require details regarding the type of job, the quantity of the item needed, the type of envelope or paper being used, the date I would receive the stock and the date needed to be completed.

Sample review: I have actual samples available to show the client, or if long-distance I have an attachment to an email containing an informational package giving photo samples and a description of the calligraphy and ordering process. I will provide a sample of the chosen style and color upon request, but I must have the actual stock or paper the client will use for the event.

Booking contract & deposit: Once we agree to all the above details, I will reserve the appropriate time period needed to complete the order. I will send the client a contract with a detailed description of the project and terms and conditions and ask for a signed copy to be returned to me. Depending on the size of the order and timeframe, a non-refundable deposit may be requested.

Guestlist: In the contract, I have instructions about how to submit an acceptable guest list.

Payment: Unless otherwise agreed to, payment in full must be made before pick-up, delivery or shipment.

Delivery or shipment: For local clients, items may be picked up at my home. Otherwise, I will ship Priority Mail with delivery confirmation requested.

How long does it take for you to prepare a typical invitation envelope?
ANNA KESSLER: It really depends on the number of items required, but the general process time is 100 envelope sets per week. This might seem slow, but Calligraphy is the art form of fine and beautiful penmanship. It cannot be done in a rush. Each letter of the alphabet, each numeral, each symbol, is created by meticulous pen strokes in a prescribed order.

Anything else you think couples should know about the process?
ANNA KESSLER: Don’t leave the calligrapher till the last minute! The process of hand-written calligraphy takes time and many calligraphers are busy ALL the time. They need to be able to schedule a time for that particular client only.

Before ordering invitations, look at your mailing list. If many of the names and/or addresses are long, particularly with foreign destinations, a small size envelope may not be suitable.

The client should always order more of the envelope, card stock and place card than they think they will need. At least 15-20% extra! This allows for mistakes, corrections, and last-minute additions.

Not all papers are ink-friendly. Particularly some hand-made papers that are so soft the ink just spreads, or shiny metallic surfaces that will not accept ink at all. The only way to find out is to test. Ask for a sample from the stationer and see what happens with a fountain pen and ink, or have a calligrapher test it for them.

What’s the best way for couples to get in touch with you?
ANNA KESSLER: By email: amkess@roadrunner.com or by phone: 207-548-2130 (fax: 207 548 2282).